Ovechkin played as the 2019-20 Capitals and was paired with Caps Gaming esports pro John “JohnWayne” Casagranda in the two-on-two format, while Gretzky represented an alumni Edmonton Oilers squad with help from his sons, Ty and Trevor.
“Just so everyone knows, I’m horrible at this, but we’ll have a lot of fun,” Gretzky, who retired in 1999 as the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer with 894, announced before jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first game by scoring as his virtual self.
“That’s 895,” one of Gretzky’s sons joked.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Ovechkin shouted after tying the score on a goal by Jakub Vrana. The teams traded goals in the second period and entered the third tied at 2. Gretzky, who noted that it’s hard to see the TV when you get to be almost 60 years old, was fading.
“My hands are getting tired,” he lamented halfway through the third period after the Capitals took a 3-2 lead and an Oilers goal was wiped out by goalie interference. “My fingers are sore.”
Moments later, Gretzky predicted that Edmonton would score the tying goal and go on to win in overtime. In fact, the Oilers took a 4-3 lead on a goal by Esa Tikkanen with 2:30 remaining and it was Ovechkin and “JohnWayne” who needed a miracle at the end of regulation. With 2.8 seconds to play, Michal Kempny deflected a shot past Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr off a perfect pass from Lars Eller.
“Oh my God!” Ovechkin shouted. “What a play! Atta boy, Kemps!”
Gretzky would score in overtime to give the Oilers a 5-4 win. He was ready to put down the sticks.
“It’s over! We’re done!” he shouted. “Is there a second game? I’m so tired.”
After a short break, the two legends regrouped for what was originally billed as a best-of-three series. Ovechkin and “JohnWayne” found their rhythm in the second game.
“Guess who?!” Ovechkin said after his virtual self gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead early in the first period. “Guess who?!”
After a Tom Wilson tally extended Washington’s lead to 4-1 late in the second period, “JohnWayne” suggested they go straight to a shootout to determine the winner in lieu of playing a deciding third game.
“I don’t think they’re going to come back from this,” Ovechkin said.
Gretzky, who retired six years before the shootout was introduced to ensure every game ended with a winner, had another idea.
“Let’s leave it a tie, one win each,” he said before offering to match half of the money raised by fans, including one donor with the handle ‘Let’sGoPens!’ ” … Nobody wins, nobody loses, and charities all get a lot of money.”
Ovechkin’s family agreed to match the other half, resulting in a total of $41,041.67.
Gretzky got the last word before signing off.
“Just so you know, I got the four Stanley Cups,” he said. “It’s over.”
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